International students are often portrayed in the media as a costly item of expenditure for the Danish state. For example, the number of international students receiving the student grant SU has been making the headlines in recent months.
But a study by the think-tank DEA paints a different picture. According to the study, the students who stay in Denmark after graduating become net contributors to the Danish economy to the extent there is a net gain of 27,000 kroner per student.
Not just economic benefits
Sarah Gade Hansen, a senior consultant at the business advocacy organisation Dansk Industri, said that international students bring benefits beyond the financial ones.
“The direct economic benefit is far from the only reason that international students benefit Denmark,” she said.
“Foreigners also contribute important international experience. And in areas where Denmark does not train enough people, they are able to take jobs and ensure that the growth of Danish business is not inhibited by a lack of skills."
The study assessed 6,000 students who completed a full education program in Denmark and graduated between 1996 and 2008. It calculated their net contribution to Denmark, particularly to the public sector.
Good business sense
The result was that overall Denmark gained 156.5 million kroner, the equivalent of 27,000 kroner per student. The majority of the income came from taxes payed by the graduates that stayed in Denmark.
Almost 40 percent of the group remained in Denmark following the completion of their education, and those who stayed longer than a year stayed on for an average of five and a half years.
There was variation in how much students from different education courses contributed to or cost the state. Generally, the longer education programs yielded the most for the economy.
DEA notes that those who only studied at a bachelor level ended up costing the state, suggesting that because there isn’t a tradition in Denmark for employing people with a bachelor’s degree, many tend to leave Denmark.
DEA concludes that as long as the job market continues to employ foreign students, it makes good business sense for Denmark to educate foreigners.